The plot is simple: three guys wake up after a night of debauchery at a bachelor party and discover that not only do they all have Vegas-induced amnesia, but the groom-to-be (Justin Bartha) is missing. Of course, this is also essentially the plot of the mildly moronic 2000 comedy Dude, Where's My Car?, minus the stoner references and alien invaders. It just goes to prove that a movie is all in the execution: The Hangover utilizes its premise to perfect effect by never taking it all that seriously. The movie doesn't worry too much about why these guys can't remember, and finds ways to make sure the viewer cares whether the crew finds Bartha's character Doug and gets him back home in time, leaving the rest of the movie for these talented improvisers to riff on their predicament rather than relying on meticulously overwritten sketch scenes.
So much has already been written about Galifianakis' performance as Alan, and I could try and take a different tack for my review, but I just can't. His oddball detachment really makes the movie in almost every scene: the emotionless, blank stare on his face as he completely fails to understand how Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) are trying to get him to turn when the three of them are in handcuffs, his total disregard for hygiene and his own health ("Ew! Alan, did you just eat sofa pizza?"), his bizarre mimicry of Phil in the desert ("Shoot!"). It's the perfect distillation of the popular comedian's act (the Chuck E. Cheese joke is from his routine) and the elements of a character into a unique role that allows Galifianakis to steal literally dozens of moments away from his co-stars. And director Phillips never seems interested in intruding on the actor's style, even accentuating Alan's insanity with hilarious on-screen graphics during one of the film's climactic scenes.
With Judd Apatow's running times creeping steadily towards three hours, it's a nice reprieve to watch The Hangover and practically feel the breeze as the movie soars by. Phillips and co-writer Daniel Goldberg (who apparently churned out a draft almost unrecognizably different than the WGA-credited screenplay by Ghosts of Girlfriends Past screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) know that the audience caring about Doug doesn't mean worrying about him every second, and they keep the script light on its toes and packed with funny diversions. Talented comedians like Rob Riggle, Matt Walsh and Ken Jeong (plus, of course, Mike Tyson) each change the tone of the comedy ever-so-slightly in each subsequent scene, and none of them overstay their welcome. The only shame is that the always funny Jeffrey Tambor is barely there as the father of the bride, although the Unrated cut rectifies this a little (see the section below for more details).
Having seen the film several times, the flaws do start to show. It's certainly true that the movie is listless in choosing a central character, basically letting process of elimination take the lead until it can hastily sweep everything else under the carpet. I mean, I can accept that Phil's comments about how he hates his life are just sarcasm for the sake of his three buddies, but they're positioned oddly within the film, hinting at some sort of epiphany for his character that never materializes. It's not that I need Phil to have a grand arc, but nonetheless there are half-hearted indications of one that doesn't exist. On the whole, the film feels a bit slapdash (you can still sense the formulaic Lucas/Moore draft in there somewhere), and sometimes it looks like it's in danger of falling apart, but again, the film basically holds together by just running towards the endzone and refusing to look back. One could also criticize the movie for being a bit of a boys' club (there's a slightly questionable line or two), but Heather Graham brings some high-caliber sweetness to cancel things out (one hopes there are no more Baby on Board-level disasters in her future).
The Unrated Version
The Video and Audio
Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 is equally impressive. I think the music in The Hangover, particularly the score by Christophe Beck, is surprisingly good, and it's crisply represented by this excellent track that also picks up all the nuances of even the most mumbled dialogue. The balance between the directional effects (which are surprisingly frequent given all the action in the movie) and the lines is very good, and there's also nothing quite like hearing Flo Rida's "Right Round" in high-def either. Dolby Digital 5.1, Quebec French 5.1 and Spanish 5.1 (theatrical version only) are also included, as well as English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and French, Spanish and (unadvertised) Portuguese subtitles.
First, let's discuss the video features. Kicking things off is the "Map of Destruction" interactive feature, which opens up a little diagram of the strip featuring links to "Desert Lot/Mr. Chow" (2:01), "Jail" (1:33), "Mercedes Left on Strip" (0:00), "The Bellagio" (0:00), "The Palms" (0:00), "Hard Rock Hotel and Casino" (1:03), "Riviera Casino" (1:52), "Caesar's Palace Hotel" (1:36), "Caesar's Palace Suite" (1:12), "Strip Club" (1:07), "Best Little Wedding Chapel" (1:10), "Hospital" (0:53) and "Mike Tyson's House" (1:44). Not only is this a remarkably irritating way to look at each location (I've seen maps similar to this on DVDs before and never bothered to go through them just due to the hassle of clicking on each entry), but the video bonuses at each location are extremely brief and uninformative (not to mention most of the interviews with the stars seem chopped beyond all recognition). A couple of these entries are just sound clips from the movie as well, without an accompanying video clip.
Next, we have the featurette "The Madness of Ken Jeong" (7:56), which is basically just the various takes from the actor's two dialogue scenes as the villainous Leslie Chow. I love Ken Jeong as much as the next person (he's been excellent in everything I've seen him in, The Hangover included), but the best material is in the movie, and unedited takes of a hyperactive comedy performance are often more exhausting than funny, which is the case here.
"Action Mashup" (0:35), "Three Best Friends Song" (1:23), "The Dan Band!" (1:08) and a gag reel (8:16) are all comprised of footage shot for the movie. The first two are skippable (although they should use Galifianakis' line about not needing a bachelor party to hang out in the teaser for the sequel), while watching Phillips' favorite wedding band perform "Fame" is worth a chuckle and the second half of the gag reel (with Galifianakis and Helms riffing on each other's physical appearance) is actually legitimately funny. Finally, "More Pictures From the Missing Camera" is remarkably underwhelming; just like the Jeong footage, the best of it made the movie, and there are no shocking revelations to be had.
So what does that leave? The Blu-Ray's big exclusive is a picture-in-picture video commentary by director Phillips and stars Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis on the theatrical version of the film. It's better than the other material Warner has dredged up for this release, but it's surprisingly low-key given the participants in question. Amusing topics include Alan's mentality towards other people, "mysterious" changes in the physical appearance of the baby in the movie, Matt Walsh's technique for not corpsing, Zach's friendly jabs at fellow stand-up comedian Brody Stevens and Ed Helms' inability to keep it together around Galifianakis, either on set or watching the film during the commentary session. One of the most notable things about the audio commentary (and perhaps all of the extras on this Blu-Ray) is that it was recorded when the movie was still being run through test screenings (the actors often comment on whether things have been left in or left out), and thus, before the movie went on to become one of the highest-earning movies of the year. It's also too bad that Justin Bartha was unavailable for the commentary, even if he's absent for 70% of the movie, and the Picture-in-Picture element is a little weird -- I caught Cooper glancing at the camera at least once and Phillips seems to think that the track will be more interactive than it is.
Heading through the BD-Live gateway leads to two additional features, called "Cursing Mashup" (0:34) and "Iron Mike Online Teaser" (approximately two minutes), which are equal in quality to the features on the disc (although I guess I'd rather have the cursing montage than the action montage), as well as promos for Edge of Darkness, LEGO Rock Band and Sherlock Holmes. Clicking on both of these videos prompted a minute or so of loading, yet both videos still needed to load further in the middle despite their extremely short length. The BD-Live gateway also requires you to register via email or login using an on-screen keyboard, which is a bit of a hassle. The menu is preceeded by trailers for Warner Blu-Ray, Digital Copy, Terminator Salvation, Four Christmases and Sherlock Holmes. A digital copy of the theatrical edition is also included.